Manchester Arena: Security guard ‘did not approach Abedi for fear of being branded a racist’

It paralyses us all, and again it is little girls who have been the victims. This time blown apart to die although others there that night will spend the rest of their lives maimed. Maimed in a different way to the raped girls of Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford and Telford, but a lifetime of challenges nonetheless. 

PA Media via Microsoft News

A security guard had a “bad feeling” as he eyeballed Manchester Arena suicide bomber Salman Abedi but did not approach him for fear of being branded a racist, a public inquiry has heard.

Kyle Lawler said he was stood 10 or 15ft away from Abedi, who had been reported to security by a member of the public who thought he looked “dodgy”.

The Showsec security guard, aged 18 at the time of the terror attack, told police in a statement read to the inquiry sitting in Manchester: “I felt unsure about what to do.

“It’s very difficult to define a terrorist. For all I knew he might well be an innocent Asian male.

“I did not want people to think I am stereotyping him because of his race.

“I was scared of being wrong and being branded a racist if I got it wrong and would have got into trouble.

“It made me hesitant.

“I wanted to get it right and not mess it up by over-reacting or judging someone by their race.”

Paul Greaney QC, counsel to the inquiry, said: “If you were to approach him and he was some innocent kid, people might think you were racist?”

Mr Lawler replied: “Yes.”

Around eight minutes before he detonated his device, Showsec steward Mohammed Ali Agha alerted Mr Lawler to the report by a member of the public and both began observing Abedi. 

Mr Lawler said: “At that time he was just an Asian male sat amongst a group of white people. As Ali turned to have a look he’s clocked that we are looking at him. He’s become fidgety with his hands. No sudden movements. He was watching us, watching him. He would kind of look, slightly look away and look back at us.”

In his statement to police, Mr Lawler said: “I just had a bad feeling about him but did not have anything to justify that.”

A stroppy old woman like me, a “Karen” might well say something, but our young have ‘equality, diversity, check your privilege’ dinned into them at school, at college, at work.  Especially when the older guard, a Muslim himself, is pooh-poohing the parent’s concerns. 

Mr Lawler agreed that on five separate occasions after the bombing, he made statements, verbally or in writing, where he “deliberately shortened” the time between him leaving the City Room to the bomb going off, “so no one would say, why didn’t you do something?” the inquiry was told.

He said: “I had no recollection of minutes or seconds. I had a guilty feeling, I had a lot of blame on myself.”

From the Times

In a statement read to the inquiry, Mr Lawler said: “I felt terrible guilt for what happened. I was almost crippled by it. I was in a terrible place and I remain so. I was also angry with myself. I felt with hindsight I should have done something else other than try to get my radio to work.”

“I think I was naive at the time to the situation. It was one of those things, it was possible but it wouldn’t happen to me,”

Mr Lawler spoke to Mr Agha three times in four minutes as the pair tried to work out what to do. Mr Lawler said that he was “starting to panic a bit”  . . . I said words to the effect of, ‘I don’t like him, I don’t think he’s here for a proper reason. If he’s going to pull out a weapon, I’ll attack him and fight him’.”

Mr Agha apparently said: “Yeah that’s sound, that’s what we’ll do” but it was “jokey bravado”, Mr Lawler said.

The inquiry heard Mr Lawler, from Salford, left school at 16 and began an apprenticeship working 7am to 4pm before going in the evenings straight to Showsec events, working from 5.30pm to 11.30pm in the evenings, for £4.24 per hour.

But before the bombing, he said he had never dealt with the report of a suspicious person and was not aware that where Abedi was in the foyer was a CCTV blind spot, which it is thought was identified by the bomber in previous “hostile reconnaissance”.

Not an idle young man then, one willing to work extra hours to make a living. Most of the staff at the Arena in whatever capacity work zero hours for low pay via an agency. 

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